Friday, January 8, 2016

How Elvis Was Jewish

Do a websearch on “Jewish Elvis,” and you will be astounded at what you find. Born on January 8, 1935, Elvis Aaron Presley was the great-grandson of Martha Tacket, who is reported to have been Jewish. Because Martha was part of his direct maternal line, according to Jewish law, “the King” was Jewish.

Although proud of his connection to Judaism, Elvis did not consider himself Jewish.

Instances of  people discovering a lost Jewish link, similar to Elvis, is not uncommon. The question for rabbinic in these situations is how to determine which claims are supported by Jewish law, making the person automatically a “member of the tribe,” and which require a person to undergo a formal conversion.

In fact, there are many thousands of people who can claim a genealogical connection to the Jewish people. Even more people may share some of the reported genetic markers that indicate Jewish ancestry. Each case, however, needs to be individually investigated and evaluated. And, while tombstones and family lore are helpful, quite often specific records or eye witness accounts are required.

Elvis was a generous donor to Jewish organizations, wore a Chai around his neck and was proud of his Jewish genealogy, but he had no interest in reclaiming his Jewish heritage. For those in similar situations who do want to reclaim their heritage, the first step is to speak with a rabbi or a community Beth Din (Jewish court of law).

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